10.1 Evidence: Documents


Family Law in BC website has great resources on Representing Yourself in Supreme Court and Prepare for Trial in Provincial Court

A key to success at trial is preparation. You wouldn’t want to hike Mount Everest in flip flops with only a granola bar. Much the same, you don’t want to find yourself at trial not knowing what to say or what to do. Being well prepared not only helps you deliver your points in a positive way it also keeps you calm. It’s important to stay calm during trial so you can deal with high emotions, questions from the judge, and other stresses that arise.

At trial, you will likely introduce two types of evidence, documental and oral.

 You will need to:

  • Prepare your documents, and
  • Prepare your witnesses 


Prepare Documents

It’s now time to look back to your Evidence Inventory Worksheet from Chapter 7 and see what documents you are planning to present. Make sure you have every document you have listed. It’s best to have the original of each document as well as 3 copies. You will be using these copies to give to your judge, witness, and the other side. One of the best ways to prepare your documents is by preparing a trial binder.

Trial Binder

Lawyer’s Tip:

It is also a good idea to make a version of the trial binder for other kinds of hearings in court.

A trial binder is a binder you take to trial that contains all your important documents, including the evidence you will show at court and your notes. Making a trial binder is a great way to get organized for your trial.

A trial binder usually consists of several sections. Here is what your trial binder order might look like:

  1. Case Building Worksheet – Your Case Building Worksheet from chapter 7.
  2. Court Documents - This includes all the filed notices, replies, applications, or orders.
  3. Opening statements – Your prepared draft
  4. Your Evidence – If you will be giving evidence such as your own affidavits or if you are testifying List the points you want to cover and the documents you will be talking about and presenting to the case.
  5. Witness
    1. Witness Worksheet – Summarizing all you witnesses
    2. Questions  you will be asking and
    3. Documents you are presenting to them.
  6. Closing Statements – Your prepared draft.

You will need some materials to create your trial binder.  

You will need:

  1. A three-ring binder
  2. Section dividers
  3. Clear sleeves or an envelope (for copies of your documents)

Create a tab for each of the sections. For court documents place them in chronological order so you can sort through them easily.  The witness tab is subdivided into the name of each witness you and the other side will call. Place the questions you have prepared and the documents they will be talking about under each name. Organize the name either alphabetically or in order of appearance in court.  Remember to make 3 copies of each document that you will be presenting. Finally be sure to include lots of blank paper for you to take notes on during the trial.


Presenting documents at court

How to give your documents to the court during the trial

You should bring to your hearing or trial 3 copies of each document you plan to present to the court along with the original. To present a document in court and enter it as evidence you usually need someone, a witness or a party (this could be you), to introduce it to the court.  They will need to swear that it is the authentic document and may need to explain the content of the document. For example a doctor may need to discuss the medical report you are presenting to the court.

If you are presenting a document:

  • Take each original document and hand it to the court clerk as you tell the judge about it. The clerk will give the document to the judge.
  • Give the other party one of the copies of the document.
  • You may need to stand in the witness box and swear or affirm the truth of your statements about the document.
  • Alternatively you may present the document to the court if it is an exhibit to your sworn affidavit.
  • After identifying the document and letting the court know it is the original copy, it will be marked as an exhibit.

If you are presenting a document to a witness:

Lawyer's Tip:

Make sure to note on your copy of the document what number exhibit it is marked as so you can refer to it later on.

  • Make sure the other side has a copy of the document
  • Give the document to the clerk.
  • Ask the clerk to mark it for identification and give it to the judge at the beginning of the testimony of the witness who will identify it.
  • Once it has been identified, ask the clerk to mark it as an exhibit.